President Obama Promises to Change the Politics of DREAM Act

Declaring that “we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants,” President Barack Obama promised to be persistent on passage of the DREAM Act as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

“My biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote,” said the President during a press conference this afternoon. “I get letters from kids all across the country.”

The President said the letters describe lives of kids who came here when they were five or eight years old. They grew up playing football and dreaming about college. Then when they reach 18 years old they find themselves at risk of deportation.

“‘Even though I am American, even though I feel American, I am at risk of deportation,'” said the President, quoting the letters he reads. “It is heartbreaking, It can’t be who we are.”

The President said he believes that Republican lawmakers know that the DREAM Act is the right thing to do, but are concerned about the politics. He promised to change the politics by speaking about the stories of people whose lives would be enabled by passage of the DREAM Act.

“If the American people knew any ot these kids they woud say of course we want you,” said the President. “That’s who we are. Those are the better angels of our nature.”–gm

Excerpt from Transcript

Juan Carlos López.

Q Gracias, Presidente. Feliz Navidad.

THE PRESIDENT: Feliz Navidad.

Q Mr. President, you’ve been able to fulfill many of your promises. Immigration reform isn’t one of them. Just this last weekend, the DREAM Act failed cloture by five votes, and five Democrats didn’t support it; three Republicans did. How are you going to be able to keep your promise when the Republicans control the House when you haven’t been able to do so with Democrats controlling both the Senate and the House, and when Republicans say they want to focus on border security before they do anything on immigration?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, there are a number of things that I wanted to get accomplished that we did not get accomplished. For example, collective bargaining for firefighters and public safety workers — that was something that I thought was important. We didn’t get it done. I’m disappointed in that. I think we’re still going to have to figure out how we work on energy, and that’s an area that I want to immediately engage with Republicans to figure out.

But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote. You know, I get letters from kids all across the country — came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented. The kids didn’t know — kids are going to school like any other American kid, they’re growing up, they’re playing football, they’re going to class, they’re dreaming about college. And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn’t recognize me as an American. I’m willing to serve my country, I’m willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself — and I’m at risk of deportation.

And it is heartbreaking. That can’t be who we are, to have kids — our kids, classmates of our children — who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break a law — they were kids.

So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done. It is the right thing to do. I think it involves securing our borders, and my administration has done more on border security than any administration in recent years. We have more of everything — ICE, Border Patrol, surveillance, you name it.

So we take border security seriously. And we take going after employers who are exploiting and using undocumented workers, we take that seriously. But we need to reform this immigration system so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants. And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.

And so I’m going to go back at it and I’m going to engage in Republicans who, I think, some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it’s the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them.

Well, that may mean that we’ve got to change the politics. And I’ve got to spend some time talking to the American people, and others have to spend time talking to the American people, because I think that if the American people knew any of these kids — they probably do, they just may not know their status — they’d say, of course we want you. That’s who we are. That’s the better angels of our nature.

And so one thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck — I am persistent. I am persistent. If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it. And I believe strongly in this.

And I am happy to engage with the Republicans about — if they’ve got ideas about more on border security, I’m happy to have that conversation. And I think that it is absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect that we don’t have porous borders and anybody can come in here any time. That is entirely legitimate.

But I also think about those kids. And I want to do right by them, and I think the country is going to want to do right by them, as well.

Hector Lopez is Coming Home!

21-year-old Hector Lopez–the Portland college student who was deported to Mexico in late August–has passed his “credible fear” interview for asylum and is processing parole papers for his imminent release from a migrant processing center in Florence, AZ.

“He’s coming home,” said immigrant advocate Ralph Isenberg from Dallas, who has been working closely with the Lopez family and attorneys. “There’s nothing more I can say right now,” he said, obviously overwhelmed with emotion. The phone call from Isenberg came at about 1:50 p.m. CST.

The story of Lopez was featured in the New York Times on the day before the DREAM Act passed the US House of Representatives in early December. Today, Lopez was mentioned in a Los Angeles Times editorial calling for eventual passage of the DREAM Act. Meanwhile, supporters in Portland expressed joy at the news that Lopez would be coming home for the holidays.

“I am so Happy! I have been praying for this day!” said Lori Horton, who started a petition for Lopez and worked with writers at Horton heard about the case through her daughter who attended the high school where Lopez served as student body president.

“Something tugged at my heart,” said Horton. “I was unfamiliar with the injustice that happens to children. It was a total eye-opening experience for me.” Horton asked Isenberg to get involved with the case after reading about Isenberg’s August attempt to talk to President Barack Obama about reversing the deportation of Texas college student Saad Nabeel.

DREAM Act Failure Should not Reverse Non-deportation Policy for Dreamers

CounterPunch / Austin IndyMedia / DissidentVoice / TheRagBlog

by Greg Moses

Two weeks ago 21-year-old Hector Lopez was the poster-perfect picture for hope in the DREAM Act. The story of his American dream, his abrupt deportation, and his heroic bid for asylum was featured in the New York Times just one day before the House of Representatives passed the act on Dec. 8. News reports called for a quick vote in the Senate. Lopez was riding high on a hope that the American system would shortly set him free from a federal lockup for migrants in Arizona.

Then the DREAM Act came unraveled. The Senate vote was postponed for a week. The vote to vote on it fell five votes short. And Lopez, the former student-body president of Rex Putnam High School of Portland, Oregon suddenly felt the air sucked out of his hopes.

“But the failure of the Senate to pass the DREAM Act in no way changes the status of the dreamers,” insists immigrant advocate Ralph Isenberg, who has been working on the Lopez release full time for several weeks. “This is not a time to panic. Instead, we need to make certain that our national policy of not deporting students like Hector remains intact.”

Isenberg is referring to widely publicized statements made earlier this year by President Barack Obama and federal immigration authorities promising that they would cease spending tax money on efforts to deport children who had been brought to the US as children.

“I am absolutely certain that Hector Lopez will be released,” says Isenberg on the Sunday before Christmas. “He meets all the criteria for dreamers. He has lived in the US for all but a few weeks of his life. He has been an exemplary student. And if the President’s words are any good, he said dreamers are not to be deported. I have not found another case where a dreamer with Hector’s qualifications and background has been deported.”

Encouraged by what he calls a “sincere tone” in his communications with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities in Arizona, Isenberg has promised to meet all expenses involved in the bonding, release, transportation, and supervision of Lopez so that he can spend the holidays at home with his mother.

Isenberg says he is thankful that ICE officials conducted an interview last Wednesday exploring claims that Lopez has a “credible fear” of being re-deported to Mexico. After two full months of life as an American exile in Mexico, Lopez came back across the border in mid-November carrying written appeals for asylum. Officials have reportedly promised a speedy evaluation of the claims in the coming week says Isenberg. Yet despite hopeful signs of sincere treatment in Arizona, Isenberg claims that the past week was stressful for Lopez.

“Hector had a very bad week,” says Isenberg. “He was shocked by the DREAM Act failing in the Senate.” And he was informed that on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, an immigration judge in California ruled that he could not reopen the Lopez deportation case at this time.

“Hector is starting to show signs of extreme stress that I fear could lead to depression,” wrote Isenberg in a weekend communication to ICE officials in Arizona. “I also understand the facility psychologist met with Hector. I sincerely hope Hector will be released soon and know that he will most likely suffer from post traumatic stress upon his release. He will get the love and attention he needs from his family and friends. It is imperative that we get Hector released to minimize the amount of mental trauma he has suffered and allow him to resume his position in our society.”

As for the immigration judgment coming out of California, Isenberg points to a passage in the ruling where the judge appears to be appealing to some common sense that cuts through the rigid legalisms of the immigration codes.

“The Court notes that were the Government to agree to joint reopening of Respondent’s proceedings [Lopez] is eligible to pursue relief in the form of suspension of deportation,” wrote the judge in his concluding remarks.

“Respondent has apparently lived in the United States since his entry in 1989 . . . and therefore accrued the requisite physical presence. Respondent has presented voluminous evidence of his good character, contributions to society, and accomplishments. His affidavit also provides evidence of the hardship he has faced upon removal to Mexico.

“While the Court would be amenable to granting Respondent’s Motion sua sponte so that he could pursue his application for suspension of deportation, it is prevented from doing so due to lack of jurisdiction.”

As Isenberg sees it, ICE authorities in Arizona have the sua sponte discretion to release Hector Lopez immediately and return him to his American life by Christmas.

“I told Hector on the telephone this weekend not to give up,” says Isenberg. “He is still on track for being released this week. It would be cruel and unusual punishment not to release this kid.”

KOIN Local 6, Portland, OR


DREAM Act Defeat: When the Majority Doesn't Rule

Most Americans want it. The House of Representatives voted for it. And 55 Senators were apparently ready to support it. But this morning in a procedural vote in the Senate, the Dream Act failed to get a filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 votes. It was a heartbreaking defeat, especially for many young Americans who are only asking to belong.

A Gallup Poll conducted earlier this month showed that the most reliable support for the DREAM Act came from the “nonwhite” demographic who were 69 percent in favor, followed closely by 66 percent of younger folks (18-34 years old) and those with graduate-level education.

In terms of demographic groups, the lowest support for the DREAM Act came from senior citizens (65 and older), people with High School education or less, and white folks (of nonHispanic ethnicity). Opposition from these groups hovered near 50 percent.

Independent voters favored the DREAM Act (57-38 percent); Democrats favored it even more (66-31 percent); while Republicans took the most decisive stand against the DREAM Act, with 63 percent in opposition.

On the issue of the DREAM Act, Republicans were the most opposed and therefore the least representative voice in American politics, yet it will be the Republican voice that sets the holiday tone for millions of Americans who shall not fail to dream nevertheless of “a more perfect union” to come.–gm

San Antonio Dream Act Rally (KENS-TV)

YEAs —55
Akaka (D-HI)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Coons (D-DE)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs —41
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brown (R-MA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kirk (R-IL)
Kyl (R-AZ)
LeMieux (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Wicker (R-MS)
Not Voting – 4
Bunning (R-KY)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)